Tech Talk: McDonald Lights Economic Fire

John McDonald, CEO of ClearObject and chair of the Indiana Chamber’s Tech Policy Committee, is proficient in many areas – including crafting analogies.

In the current BizVoice® magazine, he authors a thoughtful column titled “Indiana’s Economy: Great for Business, Not Yet for Entrepreneurs.” On the analogy side, consider this excerpt:

“If the spark that ignites an entrepreneurial company is initiative, then what are the other necessary components that fuel the fire of innovation? Like we learned in elementary school, fire requires fuel, oxygen and heat, and if any of these elements is removed, the fire stops.

“Similarly, entrepreneurship requires three elements: ideas, capital and skilled people, with the spark of initiative to light the flame. Take any of these away and the fire of an entrepreneurial company ‘flames out.’ “

Check out John’s full column.

The focus of the March-April issue is on Outstanding Talent. Nearly 20 stories outline programs, initiatives and people making a difference in the worlds of education and workforce development. Among the features:

  • The Excel Center, where adults gain the assistance and pair it with their own motivation to reach new heights in education and career opportunities
  • The Crossing Schools, where high school students in need of direction find it in the form of hands-on learning and work experiences
  • The International School of Indiana, where a challenging curriculum is only part of the mix for high-performing students

The Indiana Chamber is highlighted through the Foundation’s Business Champions Advisory Network, Indiana INTERNnet’s 12th annual IMPACT Award winners and an overview of the organization’s workforce development efforts.

View the full issue.

Federal Infrastructure Proposal Unveiled; What It Means for Indiana

On Monday, the Trump administration released its long anticipated $1.5 trillion plan for public works and infrastructure. The plan is based on $200 billion in direct federal spending to leverage $1.3 trillion in state, local and private infrastructure investment. (See

With many of our nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure in need of upgrading and building out for the future, this plan relies heavily on additional investment from the states and the private sector. The base of the plan has $100 billion in incentives in the form of grants to state and locals that includes $50 billion for rural projects, $30 billion for revolving federal credit and capital funds, as well as $20 billion for innovative projects that may not be ripe for private investment.

Indiana was one of several states that passed a bold, long-range infrastructure plan last year. (In fact, more than half of the states have raised their gas tax over the past five years.) So we should be well positioned to take advantage of this plan, as we have already taken the needed step to enhance our state and local road infrastructure funding.

Water infrastructure is a big issue for Indiana and this plan also proposes to leverage local investment with up to $40 in local and private money for every $1 in federal investment.

Additionally, the plan also proposes to cut federal permitting and approval times to two years, down from five to 10 years. This could be a big benefit for many projects.

Presently, this plan does not lay out specific funding for the proposal and puts that issue before Congress to solve. That could prove more difficult with concerns that the recently passed federal tax plan will raise the nation’s deficit. One option: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently proposed raising the federal gas tax, which has not been raised since 1993. No doubt, this will be a tough discussion in Congress.

There is usually an economic multiplier effect with infrastructure investment. America’s infrastructure is in dire need of modernization. Indiana has taken big steps to take care of its own and will hopefully benefit from this package. As details develop, we will continue to see how this plan evolves and impacts Indiana infrastructure.

It’s All About Money, Mobility and Markets

What does it take for small businesses to succeed? The Center for Public Policy Innovation asked business, government and nonprofit leaders, who said the following:

  • Access to Capital — Gaining access to capital is an obstacle for all small businesses. However, the U.S. must work to connect local start-ups with regional investors to boost local investments and make the capital gains tax exemption permanent for investors in qualified small businesses.
  • Access to Modern Technology — U.S. small business must have access to cloud computing, mobile technologies and virtual global supply chains to invest more into their products, to collaborate on a global scale and to expand their presence to foreign markets.
  • Access to Global Markets — The U.S. government must make existing programs, that help domestic small business enter foreign markets, easier to find and navigate.

According to the State Science & Technology Institute, "the report also looked at the importance of failure for start-up founders. Failure is a natural and important part of future successful firm development, the report notes. Start-up founders learn valuable lessons when their firms fail, and they often develop an expanded professional network that will benefit them over the long-term. The authors contend that learning from mistakes is the true driver of private sector innovation."

The 12-page report is titled: Restoring U.S. Competitiveness: Creating Jobs and Unleashing the Potential of Small Businesses through Technology and Innovation.


First Financial Bank, Butler U. Event to Help Businesses Plan

First Financial Bank and Butler University are hosting a special business panel discussion on many issues critical to your business. Local industry experts will discuss important business tools and resources to help you plan and prepare for next year. Topics will include: understanding legal issues, managing your financial relationship, access to capital, tax incentives, forecasting and more. This will be a great opportunity to learn from experts and identify strategies to help take your business to the next level.

  • Alice Morical, Hoover Hull, LLP
  • Anita Sherman, Greenwalt CPA, Managing Partner
  • Gail Gesell, Small Business Administration, Indiana District Director
  • Mary Jo Kennelly, First Financial Bank
  • Chris Stump, Business Accelerator, CFO Services
  • Larry O’Connor (moderator), Business Accelerator, Executive Director

Space is limited. Please RSVP to [email protected] or 317.237.1581.
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (lunch provided)
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Deer Zink Events Pavilion
4000 Michigan Road, Indianapolis, IN 46208-3326

Nation’s Capital Says “Not So Fast” on Reimbursing Residents for Solar Panels

"Yaaaaaaa. About that…."

Government programs that incentivize citizens for responsible and eco-friendly behavior can certainly be beneficial at times. However, this tale from Washington, D.C. shows what happens to well-intentioned residents when the government doesn’t follow through. The Washington Post dishes the disappointing news:

It isn’t easy going green, and it may also prove costly.

Dozens of District residents who installed solar panels on their homes under a government grant program promoting renewable energy have been told they will not be reimbursed thousands of dollars as promised because the funds were diverted to help close a citywide budget gap.

In all, the city has reneged on a commitment of about $700,000 to 51 residents, according to the D.C. Department of the Environment. The agency has pledged to try to find money in next year’s budget, its director, Christophe Tulou, said.

"It just doesn’t seem fair to go through a process with them and have them make investments in solar panels under the assumption they would be reimbursed," Tulou acknowledged. "It’s really sad we are having these economic woes when we are."

The abrupt suspension of the city’s Renewable Energy Incentive Plan, an annual $2 million fund that was supposed to last through fiscal 2012, threatens to dampen budding enthusiasm for clean energy among homeowners. The program has helped 315 people install solar panels, with another 417 on a waiting list that has been closed by city officials.

D.C. Council member Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3), who is leading the push for a sustainable energy utility to encourage green energy in the District, said officials are scouring the environment agency’s budget in hopes of finding reimbursement money for the 51 homeowners this year.

But, she said, "I would think people would take a cautious approach" to future installations.